Women’s History Month

Margaret A. Readdy, Christine Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-303
Number of pages56
JournalNotices of the American Mathematical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

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I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, the oldest of four girls. I liked math from an early age, but I also loved art, reading, writing poetry, and playing the violin. Once I started participating in math competitions and summer programs, I noticed that there were not very many girls involved; but the fact that my younger sisters were also good at math helped, I think, to mitigate any feelings of isolation. I majored in math at Harvard, spent a year at Cambridge doing Part III of the Mathematical Tripos, and then obtained my PhD from MIT under the supervision of Richard Stanley. After postdoctoral positions at UC Berkeley and Harvard, I joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 2009, obtaining tenure in 2013. I have two kids, ages two and five, who bring me a lot of joy but also make the task of balancing my various responsibilities much harder! I have graduated six PhD students so far with five more current students. Some recent awards include the AWM– Microsoft Research Prize, the Rose Hills Innovator Award, a Simons Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, a Sloan Fellowship, the Prytanean Faculty Award (a mentoring award for Berkeley faculty), a Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, and the 2018 Hardy Lectureship.

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My college years at Harvard were more focused, and it was there that I finally discovered my love for mathematics and its deep connections to physics. By the time I got to graduate school, I was on a path to becoming a string theorist. Halfway through my PhD, however, I became disillusioned with string theory and fell in love with neuroscience. This sent my career on a very different path. After graduating, I spent three years as a postdoc in a neuroscience lab at Rutgers. It was an exhilarating experience: a complete cultural immersion into a world of science I had barely known existed when I first entered graduate school. Eventually, I returned to math as a mathematical neuroscientist. I’m currently a tenured math professor at Penn State University. I’ve been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship and multiple grants from NSF and NIH. I live in State College with my husband—who is also a frequent collaborator—and our two kids.

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Lillian Pierce grew up in a small town in California and was primarily educated at home, with a significant focus on violin performance. As an undergraduate at Princeton, she completed the pre-medical curriculum but meanwhile majored in math, because its clarity and precision had seemed appealing since childhood. The intensive curriculum and the experience of independent work with encouraging mentors made it clear that a career as an academic mathematician looked like a perfect fit. She then completed graduate work at Oxford and Princeton, followed by postdocs at the IAS and Oxford, and after a year as a Bonn Junior Fellow took up a faculty position at Duke University. Pierce was a Rhodes Scholar and Marie Curie Fellow. She has recently been awarded the AWM–Sadosky Research Prize in Analysis, an NSF CAREER grant, and a von Neumann Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study. Having benefited tremendously from the generosity of many mentors, Pierce works consciously to build an inclusive atmosphere for 21st-century mathematics.

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Fern Y. Hunt is a New York City native. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a BA degree in mathematics and from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences with a PhD in 1978. Later that year Hunt joined the faculty of Howard University’s mathematics department, where she received an NSF Career Award, other NSF grants, Howard University research grants, and an Association for Women in Mathematics travel grant. In 1991, Hunt took a full-time position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In 1999, Hunt received the Arthur S. Flemming Award for outstanding federal service in science. Hunt has also appeared in the modern Leonardos exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry since 2006. She has served on several committees, notably the NSF Committee of Visitors 2016, the organizing committee of the Infinite Possibilities Conference 2014–2015, the executive committee for AWM in 2002–2006, and the first Association for Women in Mathematics Olga Taussky Todd Award Committee in 2006. Hunt has also served on the Bryn Mawr College Board of Trustees and been an emerita member since 2009.

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I am currently an American Academy of University Women (AAUW) American Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago, with Benson Farb as my mentor. My previous NSF Alliance Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Iowa afforded me the opportunity, thanks to a progressive chair, Dan Anderson, to teach an undergraduate research course that proved successful, an experience contributing to my becoming assistant director of the Illinois Geometry Lab. One of the most inspiring moments as a mentor came when a former calculus student at the University of Illinois asked me to serve as her academic sponsor for a technology entrepreneurship class, where she worked on the first project of her company, YouMatter Studios.

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Tara S. Holm is professor of mathematics at Cornell University. She earned her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and her PhD at MIT. She was an NSF postdoctoral research fellow at UC Berkeley and had been a faculty member at the University of Connecticut before arriving at Cornell. Holm has played leadership roles nationally with the American Mathematical Society; the Association for Women in Mathematics; Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics (TPSEMath.org); and Pro Mathematica Arte, the non-profit corporation that runs study-abroad programs for North American mathematics students in Budapest. She gives invited lectures around the world, including an AMS–MAA Invited Address at MathFest. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Simons Foundation. She is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society and a 2013 Simons Fellow in Mathematics. At Cornell, she has been honored with a 2016 Mathematics Department Teaching Award and a 2017 Cornell Cook Award for improving the climate for women at Cornell. In addition to mathematics, she enjoys gardening, cooking with her family, and exploring the Finger Lakes.

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She has received a Sofja Kovalevskaja award, a European Mathematical Society Prize, an ERC Starting Grant, two von Neumann Fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, and an AMS Fellowship.

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Melody Chan grew up in the suburbs of New York. She juggled a dual love of math and music: after graduating from high school, she went to the Juilliard School at the age of sixteen spending a year studying violin with Itzhak Perlman and Dorothy DeLay. Subsequently she attended Yale University and received her PhD from the University of California Berkeley in 2012, advised by Bernd Sturm-fels. She was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard from 2012 to 2015 before beginning her current position as an assistant professor at Brown University. Chan’s research has been supported by recent grants from the National Security Agency, from the National Science Foundation, and by the Henry Merritt Wriston Fellowship, Brown University’s highest award for junior faculty for research and teaching. She has also maintained and nurtured a commitment to teaching and mentoring in mathematics since graduate school.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics


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